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Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.


by the poet or the orator. If it have its advantages, it hath its disadvantages also; and must be used sparingly by those who choose that their writings should be more extensively known than in their own neighbourhood. Proper names are not in the same respect essential to the language as appellatives. And even among the former, there is a difference between the names known to fame, and the names of persons or things comparatively obscure. The last kind of names will ever appear as strangers to the greater part of readers, even to those who are masters of the language. Sounds to which the ear is not accustomed, have a certain uncouthness in them, that renders them, when occurring frequently, fatiguing and disagreeable. But that, nevertheless, when pertinently introduced, when neither the ear is tired by their frequency, nor the memory burdened by their number, they have a considerable effect in point of vivacity, is undeniable.

This holds especially when, from the nature of the subject, the introduction of them may be expected. Every one is sensible, for instance, that the most humorous or engaging story loseth egregiously, when the relater cannot or will not name the persons concerned in it. No doubt the naming of them has the greatest effect on those who are acquainted with them either personally or by character ; but it hath some effect even on those who never heard of them before. It must be an extraordinary tale indeed which we can bear for any time to hear; if the narrator proceeds ir

Of vivacity, as depending on the choice of words.

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this languid train, “A certain person who shall be " nameless, on a certain occasion, said so and so, to

which a certain other person in the company, who " likewise shall be nameless, made answer"--- Nay, so dull doth a narrative commonly appear wherein anonymous individuals only are concerned, that we choose to give feigned names to the persons rather than none at all. Nor is this device solely necessary for precluding the ambiguity of the pronouns, and saving the tediousness of circumlocution ; for where neither ambiguity nor circumlocution would be the consequence, as where one man and one woman are all the interlocutors, this expedient is nevertheless of great utility. Do but call them any thing, the man suppose Theodosius, and the woman Constantia*, and by the illusion which the very appearance of names, though we know them to be fictitious, operates on the fancy, we shall conceive ourselves to be better acquainted with the actors, and enter with more spirit into the detail of their adventures, than it will be possible for us to do, if you always speak of them in the inde

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The choice however is not quite arbitary even in fictitious names. It is always injudicious to employ a name which, from its customary application, may introduce an idea unsuitable to the character it is affixed to. This error I think Lord Bolingbroke chargeable with in assigning the name Damon to his philo. sophical antagonist (Let. to M. de Pouilly). Though we read of a Pythagorian philosopher so called, yet in this country we are so much accustomed to meet with this name in pastorals and amour

songs, that it is impossible not to associate with it the notion of some plaintive shepherd or love-sick swain.

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Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

finite, the general, and therefore the unaffecting style of the gentleman and the lady, or he and she. This manner, besides, hath an air of concealment, and is ever reminding us, that they are people we know nothing about.

Ir ariseth from the same principle that whatever tends to subject the thing spoken of to the notice of our senses, especially of your eyes, greatly enlivens the expressions. In this way the demonstrative pronouns are often of considerable use. " I have covet' ed,” says Paul to the elders of Ephesus, " no man's

silver, or gold, or apparel ; yea, ye yourselves know " that these hands have ministered to my necessities, " and to them that were with me *". Had the said,

my hands,” the sentence would have lost nothing ei. ther in meaning or in perspicuity, but very much in vivacity. The difference to hearers is obvious, as the former expression must have been accompanied with the emphatic action of holding up his hands to their view. To readers it is equally real, who in such a case instantaneously enter into the sentiments of hear

In like manner, the English words yon and yonder are more emphatical, because more demonstrative than the pronoun that, and the adverb there. The two last do not necessarily imply that the object is in sight, which is implied in the two first. Accordingly, in these words of Milton,


* Acts xx. 33. 34,

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the expression is more vivid than if it had been “ that “ celestial sign."

“ Sit ye here," saith our Lord, “ whilst I go and pray yonder.f" The adverb there would not have been near so expressive f. Though we cannot say properly that pronouns or adverbs, either of place or of time, are susceptible of genera and species, yet we can say (which amounts to the same as to the effect), that some are more and some less limited in signification.

To the above remarks and examples on the subject of speciality, I shall only add, that, in composition, particularly of the descriptive kind, it invariably succeeds best for brightening the image, to advance from general expressions to more special, and thence again to more particular.' This, in the language of philosophy, is descending. We descend to particulars; but in the language of oratory it is ascending. A very beautiful climax will sometimes be constituted in this manner, the reverse will often have all the effect of an anticlimax. For an example of this order in de

* Paradise Lost. + Matt. xxvi. 36. | Le Clerc thus renders the original into French, “ Asseyez- . vous ici, pendant que je m'en irai prier .” At the same time sensible how weakly the meaning is expressed by the adverb , he subjoins in a note, “ Dans un lieu qu'il leur montroit du doit," The English version needs no such supplement.


Of vivacity as depending on the choice of words.

scription, take the following passage from the Song of Solomon: “ My beloved spake and said to me, Arise,

my love, my fair, and come away; for lo, the “ winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers

appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our

land, the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and " the vines with the tender grape perfume the air. A

rise, my love, my fair, and come away *.” The poet here, with admirable address, begins with mere negatives, observing the absence of every evil which might discourage his bride from hearkening to his importunate request ; then he proceeds by a fine gradation to paint the most inviting circumstances that could serve to ensure the compliance of the fair. The first expression is the most general : “ The winter is past.” The next is more special, pointing to one considerable and very disagreeable attendant upon winter, the rain: “ The rain is over and gone.” Thence he advanceth

. to the positive indications of the spring, as appearing in the effects produced upon the plants which clothe the fields, and on the winged inhabitants of the grove. “The flowers appear on the earth, and the time of the

singing of birds is come.” But, as though this were still too general, from mentioning birds and plants, he proceeds to specify the turtle, perhaps considered as the emblem of love and constancy; the fig-tree and the vine, as the earnest of friendship and festive joy,


* Chap. ii. 10, 11, 12, 13,

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